San Francisco is known for its embracement of diversity and this is reflected in its many famous districts, each of which have their own distinct character and attractions that celebrate the cultures and personality of San Francisco. If you have time visit them all, each has something unique to offer!
In this article you’ll find out why North Beach has been called one of America’s top ten neighborhoods. Don’t come expecting a beach because you will be disappointed as North Beach is not actually a beach, but an Italian influenced neighborhood with plenty to offer, including the best espresso you will find in San Francisco. Known as San Francisco’s “Little Italy”, it’s a European style area with sidewalk cafes, shops, bistros and local attractions such as Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower.
Where to Find North Beach:
North beach is in the northeast of San Francisco. The main area and intersections of North Beach are Union and Columbus, the southwest corner of Washington Square, and Grant Avenue and Vallejo Street. It’s tucked between Chinatown, Russian Hill, and Fisherman’s Wharf. North Beach has always been an interesting area, it was a bohemian area in the 20’s and was the historic center of the beatnik subculture in the 50’s, it’s now home to a variety of ethnicities including a large Italian population.
What to do in North Beach:
North Beach is known for its laid back atmosphere, perfect for spending a slow day taking in the sights while sipping espresso from a sidewalk café, having a slow lunch with friends at a bistro, doing some shopping at the many boutiques, or follow in the footsteps of Beat poets such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.
On Grant Avenue you’ll find small boutiques with handmade goods such as clothing, imported goods, and delicatessens with many European style specialities. There are also many popular Italian restaurants here. At night North beach becomes a vibrant spot for nightlife with many clubs and bars, live music, comedy shows and dancing.
Visit the illustrious Caffe Trieste, the first espresso coffee house on the West Coast back in the 1950's and now considered a must try for its fine Italian coffee and live music every Saturday often featuring the talented Giotta family who started the café. The café was a meeting and performance place for poets, writers, composers and artists back in the 50’s, including the beatniks, and still is a hub for creative types to meet and hold performances. City Lights is the publisher that bravely first put out Allen Ginsberg's then controversial "Howl". It was founded by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg’s publisher and is still one of the city’s best bookstores. Beat poetry fans may also want to check out another Beat hangout, Vesuvio's on Columbus, and the Beat Museum on Grant Avenue.
North Beach Landmarks:
Telegraph Hill is one of San Francisco’s original “seven hills” and home to Pioneer Park, a beautiful park and garden area. Look out for the wild parrots that have made the park their home. On Telegraph Hill you’ll find one of San Francisco’s iconic attractions – the Coit Tower, a 210 foot (64 m) white cylindrical structure made of concrete built in 1933. Since then it has become known a welcoming beacon to the city both for travellers and those returning home. Go up to the tower’s observation deck for the best 360-degree view of the city including the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay. Be sure to visit the famous Saints Peter and Paul Church with its white stone towers. Shots of the breathtaking cathedral church have been used in many movies over the years, celebrities have wed here, and the church held the funeral of Joe DiMaggio. Across from the church is Washington Square Park a serene green space in the midst of the urban surroundings.
Enjoy your trip to the North Beach district in San Francisco, California!
Photo: San Francisco Travel Association / David Goldberg